Hunting for gold in Rwanda

There are two ways to hunt for gold in the hills of Rwanda. The traditional method – pictured above – requires little more than a sturdy pan to sift the dirt and gravel found in the many, murky streams that snake Rwanda’s thousand hills. These “artisinal miners” are not strictly legal. The pursuit for a few specks of precious metal – look closely for those in the image below – generally leads to a Rwandan buyer, somewhere in Kigali, and a below-market-price for the hard gotten mineral gains.

The second method is far less romantic, far more organised, more regulated, with a very keen eye on the bottom line. There are two companies exploring for gold in Rwanda at the moment. I went to visit one of them – TransAfrika – at their concession in Gicumbi province, northern Rwanda. It’s a far cry from the artisinal gold panner, a kilometre or two downstream.

Hi-tech, portable drilling equipment, imported from Chile – another hilly country with a developed mining industry – is used to drill down as far as 250 metres, at a rate of up to 20 metres per day, for core samples across the concession. The samples are all sent for analysis in Kigali and Cape Town.

This is early days for gold exploration in Rwanda – TransAfrika only started soil sampling in 2008/2009. However, if the results are good enough – (in mineralspeak) that means the explorers will need to find 1 million ounces of “inferred gold” – then the “pioneer/exploration” phase could move into the mining phase in the near future. I’ll have more on this story in a week or two.

Here are some more photographs from the gold exploration area in Gicumbi province.